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Penn State Football: Secondary Coach John Butler Promoted to Defensive Coordinator

by on January 09, 2013 4:55 PM

Updated at 6:09 p.m.

Penn State was forced to make a change at defensive coordinator when Ted Roof accepted the same position at Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

John Butler, the secondary coach who oversaw special teams, was Bill O'Brien's man instead of longtime Penn State assistant Larry Johnson (defensive line) or Ron Vanderlinden (linebackers).

Roof is headed back to his alma mater, pending a background check. Butler, a firecracker on the practice field and sideline, is stepping into his biggest role yet with any organization.

How much of the multiple-aggressive defensive philosophy and language that Roof taught will change, if any, remains to be seen. Butler and Roof previously worked together at Minnesota, and, of course, spent the last year together in State College. To that end, one point to make is that O'Brien understands the importance of keeping structure within a coaching staff.

"Continuity is what breeds success," O'Brien said last week during "The Steve Jones Show" on Newsradio 1070 WKOK. "When you have a staff that works together, knows each other's language, work ethic, understands their role and what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they fit into the staff, then the players see the chemistry of our staff. I think the players see a staff that gets along very well. It's important to keep this staff together."

O'Brien, however, is also cognizant of change and said he'd never hold a coach back from making a career move. Butler, one of his younger assistants, is now in a position to bolster his resume for future endeavors. Just as he did at Penn State, he oversaw the special teams at South Carolina and Minnesota, where he also coached the linebackers. Now, he's in charge of running the defense and must work more closely with Johnson and Vanderlinden, the only two holdovers from the Joe Paterno regime.

“I just wanna be the best coach I can be," Johnson said earlier in the season. "And being that is what's driving me every day, that I create a brand that's very special as a coach. And coaching the defensive line, that's what I do and I'm OK with that."

Said Vanderlinden: "I enjoy the role that I have. I enjoy doing what I'm doing."

Roof is returning home and making his fifth coaching stop in the last six years. He was set to join George O'Leary's staff at Central Florida in late 2011 before stepping into his defensive coordinator role at Penn State after O'Brien was hired last January. He's an alumnus of Georgia Tech, a member of its Hall of Fame and coached there with O'Brien and offensive line coach Mac McWhorter from 1998-2001, serving as defensive coordinator the last three seasons.

O'Brien, who just two days ago praised his assistants for their hard work over the last year, is allowed nine full-time assistant coaches, per NCAA rules.

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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